1963-64 League of Ireland season

The 1963-64 season was all about Shamrock Rovers. Under the management of Sean Thomas (who had been with the club since 1961), and boosted by the return of Liam Tuohy from Newcastle, they made up for the disappointment of the 1956-57 season by achieving an incredible domestic quadruple / grand slam. They brought their league championship haul into double figures, finishing five points clear of both Dundalk and Limerick, and overcame Cork Celtic in a replayed final (Eddie Bailham scored both in a 2-1 mid-week win under the Dalymount lights) to achieve their first league and F.A.I. Cup double since 1932. With half-backs Ronnie Nolan and Johnny Fullam pulling the strings, Rovers had already secured a fifteenth League of Ireland Shield (six home wins helping them finish three points ahead of Dundalk) and an eighth Dublin City Cup (two Liam Tuohy goals helped them get the better of Drumcondra in the final for a sixth time) in the first half of the season, and added the Leinster Senior Cup for good measure.

The Milltown club complemented their domestic achievements by pushing Valencia (winners of the tournament for the last two seasons) all the way in the first round of the Fairs Cup. Goals from Liam Tuohy and Jackie Mooney put Rovers 2-0 up in the second leg in Spain, before the Spaniards, albeit with the help of a disputed goal, brought the match level to progress 3-2 on aggregate. Controversy reigned at Milltown towards the end of the campaign, however, when the Cunningham family once again became embroiled in a team selection scandal. Star winger and Republic of Ireland international Frank O’Neill was left out of the Rovers side for the F.A.I. Cup final replay, prompting Sean Thomas to resign as Rovers manager, and move across the city to Bohemians. Club captain Liam Tuohy stepped into the managerial breach (one of his first tasks would be to replace goalkeeper Pat Dunne, sold to Manchester United for £10,500), but Thomas’s acrimonious departure had unquestionably taken some of the shine off the club’s remarkable achievements this season.

Although the scoring rate was slightly up from the previous season, match reports for this campaign were often dominated by tales of profligate forward lines and wasted goalscoring opportunities. Bohemians’ struggles in front of goal continued, Limerick failed to properly capitalise on the excellent half-back play of Ewan Fenton and Al Finucane, and it was left to Ronnie Whelan to score almost half of St. Patrick’s Athletic’s league goals. Even Shamrock Rovers were not immune from the criticism, despite recording an 8-1 win away to Waterford and a 4-0 win over Shelbourne at Tolka Park. Some League of Ireland supporters would, however, have been happy to see players like Eric Barber, Jimmy Hasty and Donal Leahy (none of whom had reached double figures the previous season) back among the goals.

Shamrock Rovers had also defeated Dundalk 7-0 in the first round of the F.A.I. Cup (the two sides had been level on points at the top of the league at the time of this result), but it was the Lilywhites (under the management of Joey Donnelly) who handed the Hoops their only two domestic defeats of the season. A 2-1 win at Oriel Park represented Rovers’ only league loss, and a Top Four Cup semi-final between the sides was said to be the most keenly contested Independent Cup match ever. Two goals from the Lilywhites’ legendary one-armed centre-forward Jimmy Hasty helped them to a 3-2 win, and Dundalk’s meeting with Limerick in the final (the teams had drawn 2-2 at the Market’s Field on the last day of the league season) took on added significance because of Rovers’ dominance. After Limerick had missed a host of chances in both games, Dundalk prevailed after a replay, with Hasty again on the mark.

One of the league’s top three goalscorers this season (he had been Dundalk’s top marksman for each of the previous three), Hasty’s disability did not seem to affect his play at all, and the Belfastman had been attracting huge crowds to League of Ireland grounds since signing for Dundalk in 1960. Word of him had also spread to Switzerland in advance of Dundalk’s European Cup second leg game against FC Zürich, and with the outcome of the tie seemingly a foregone conclusion after Dundalk’s 3-0 Dalymount Park defeat (the visitors had scored with virtually all of their chances), Hasty made a goal, scored a goal, and hit the crossbar before the Swiss scored again to put the issue beyond doubt. After a couple of more seasons with Dundalk and a short spell with Drogheda, Hasty returned to the north in the late 1960s, but unfortunately, would lose his life in a sectarian attack in Belfast in 1974.

Despite the great showing by Hasty and his teammates in Zürich (and their status as current league champions), it was something of a shock that not a single Dundalk player was selected for the League of Ireland’s match against the English League at Dalymount Park in October of 1963. As it turned out, five Shamrock Rovers players helped the Irish selection to their first and only ever win over their English counterparts, with Eddie Bailham and Ronnie Whelan scoring the goals in a historic 2-1 victory. The visitors’ line-up had included names like Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Roger Hunt, but there had been some Irish optimism due to the recent European performances and also a depleted Republic of Ireland team (one that included Liam Tuohy, Willie Browne and Ronnie Whelan) holding Austria to a goalless draw in Vienna on the same night that Dundalk had been in action in Zürich. The English League had a penalty saved by Drumcondra’s Eamonn Darcy (a standout performer this season) before taking a half-time lead, but Bailham’s 25-yard drive set the home team on their way to success.

With Irish football’s stock having fallen somewhat in recent years, the respectable performances that had been put in against overseas opposition seemed to restore the pride of Irish football supporters, but better was to come, as the national team followed up the away draw with a 3-2 home win over Austria in the second leg of their European Nations Cup tie. The Dalymount crowd was at fever pitch and there were several pitch invasions, but in spite of a possible objection by the Austrians, the result was allowed to stand. Spain were to end Ireland’s interest in the competition at the quarter-final stage, but a 4-2 win for the League of Ireland against the Irish League along with a 2-2 draw in a return game in Belfast meant the representative team (coached by Sean Thomas) had gone through their three matches unbeaten.

A few months after their visit to Valencia, Shamrock Rovers had found themselves back in Spain, after being invited to play a February friendly against a Spanish international ‘B’ team, with the hosts recording a fairly straightforward 7-2 win. The Hoops’ trophy-winning exploits this season were also, slightly peculiarly, bookended by two friendly matches against English second division club Sunderland. It ended up being a notable / historic season for both clubs, with Sunderland winning promotion to the top flight after a six-year absence (Derryman Johnny Crossan was their top scorer), but it was a run to the quarter-finals of the F.A. Cup that saw them make headlines in England and beyond. A three-match tussle with a star-studded Manchester United was eventually lost (had the Black Cats won there would have been three second division clubs in the last four) but the huge demand for entry to the first replay led to an extremely dangerous case of overcrowding at Roker Park. Two Sunderland fans lost their lives and it was only because of good fortune that a more serious disaster was averted. Rovers had won 2-1 on their visit to Roker Park in August, but Sunderland made amends by winning 3-1 at Dalymount Park in early May.

Drogheda‘s first season as a League of Ireland club ended up as a bit of a mixed bag, but they could ultimately be quite satisfied that they managed to avoid having to seek re-election. Their first match of the season was a 4-3 Dublin City Cup defeat by neighbours Dundalk at Oriel Park, but they struggled to attract crowds to their matches early on as they found wins hard to come by. The players had to take a pay cut, but with Dan McCaffrey leading the line the Boynesiders managed to find a little bit of form, and the crowds also started to come through the turnstiles. Although they were heavily beaten in both league matches against Dundalk, a 5-5 draw away to champions Shamrock Rovers was a definite high point of this debut season.

Sligo Rovers had returned after their one-season absence from the league, and although this was the last season for club legend (and all-time top scorer) Johnny Armstrong, another Bit O’ Red great appeared on the scene this year. A local 20-year old centre-half called David Pugh made a big impact and received much praise for his performances, drawing favourable comparisons to the likes of Shelbourne’s Freddie Strahan. By 1966, the well-built defender would be captaining Ireland’s under-23 team, and as well as serving Sligo Rovers with distinction, Pugh would go on to appear for Sligo G.A.A. in a Connacht final against Galway. Several other newcomers to the league this season were destined to make big names for themselves, with Shamrock Rovers handing a debut to 16-year old Damien Richardson, and a 17-year old Turlough O’Connor scoring on his first appearance for Limerick. A young Paddy Mulligan also made his debut for Bohemians before leaving to join Home Farm, but then signed a professional contract with Shamrock Rovers a short time later.

League of Ireland 1963-64


PWDLFAPts

Shamrock Rovers221471682735

Dundalk221264492730

Limerick221264463230

Cork Celtic22985493626

St. Patrick’s Athletic22895412925

Cork Hibernians22976383125

Shelbourne22859464221

Drumcondra229310313821

Sligo Rovers22679305317*

Drogheda225611314416

Waterford22411727649

Bohemians22151619527

* Sligo Rovers deducted two points

European Competition (all home legs at Dalymount Park) : European Cup Preliminary Round, Dundalk 0-3 FC Zürich, FC Zürich 1-2 Dundalk European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round, Shelbourne 0-2 Barcelona, Barcelona 3-1 Shelbourne Inter Cities Fairs Cup First Round, Shamrock Rovers 0-1 Valencia, Valencia 2-2 Shamrock Rovers

League top scorers : Eddie Bailham Shamrock Rovers, 18 Jimmy Hasty Dundalk, 18 Johnny Kingston Cork Hibernians, 18

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Joe Wickham, F.A.I. Secretary

Representative matches : League of Ireland 2-1 English League, League of Ireland 4-2 Irish League, Irish League 2-2 League of Ireland

1962-63 League of Ireland season

Though not as severely affected as the U.K., the 1962-63 League of Ireland football season was largely defined by the winter “Big Freeze”, which led to a succession of postponements during December and January and threw the championship race almost completely out of step. Dundalk F.C. somehow escaped the worst of it, however, and with a team containing a number of “cast-offs” from other clubs, managed to keep their noses ahead of everyone else for almost the entire campaign. Two late goals away to bottom club Bohemians in their final game secured a dramatic 2-2 draw, and a three-point advantage at the top of the table, but with three other clubs still in a position to catch them. Over the coming days, the title hopes of Drumcondra, Shelbourne (who lost their last three games to slip to seventh), and then Cork Celtic all evaporated, leaving the Lilywhites’ to celebrate their first league title in 30 years (it was the club’s first top four finish in 14 years, and they used a squad of just 14 players). By the time all of the fixture congestion had been cleared, Paddy Coad’s Waterford were left in the runners-up position, ahead of Drumcondra on goal average.

A decision had been taken to reduce the amount of League of Ireland clubs from 12 to 10, and having both finished some distance adrift at the foot of the previous season’s table, Transport and Sligo Rovers had failed to retain their League of Ireland status. Although the north-westerners would soon return, 1961-62 would prove to have been the Busmen’s last League of Ireland action (they would, however, go on to win three F.A.I. Intermediate Cups). The reduction of clubs was partly to accommodate a new P.J. Casey Cup competition, which opened the new season in August. Again open to League of Ireland clubs only, but with a geographical format similar to the modern-day League Cup (two groups of five clubs played each other once, with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals), the trophy was named after the Dundalk administrator and former president of the League of Ireland who had died during the previous season. Fittingly, Dundalk reached the final, but were beaten 3-0 (Billy Dixon scored twice) by Drumcondra, in what would actually prove to be the only ever P.J. Casey Cup decider. The fixture pile-up that happened to occur this year meant that the new competition was sacrificed instead of the league having to possibly introduce a mid-season break.

The shield had kicked off immediately after the P.J. Casey Cup, with eight wins from nine helping Shamrock Rovers finish six points clear of Cork Celtic and Dundalk to capture what would prove to be the first of four consecutive League of Ireland Shields (as with the subsequent league race, most of the teams had found consistent form hard to come by). Something of a new departure for the Dublin City Cup saw it commence in November, with the first round taking place over two legs. The competition was impacted by the cold weather, however, and the second semi-final wasn’t played until the 25th of April, a whole four months after the first. Shelbourne, and Tommy Moroney’s Cork Hibernians (who this season finally began playing their home fixtures at the Flower Lodge stadium, and received big praise for both the facilities and the quality of the playing surface) could look forward to a meeting in the final on the 5th of May.

These clubs had already met in a far more prestigious fixture on April 22nd, however, with the F.A.I. Cup throwing up a repeat of the 1960 decider, and giving Hibs the chance to gain revenge for their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Gerry Doyle’s side. The Leesiders’ team this year included former Shamrock Rovers, Everton and Ireland star Tommy Eglington, and also Tommy Hamilton (hero of the previous season’s final and the reigning S.W.A.I. ‘Personality of the Year’), but in a final played in wind and rain, goals from Shels defenders Paddy Roberts and Paddy Bonham ensured that the 1960 result and scoreline were also destined to be repeated (peculiarly, just as in 1960, Hibs had a goal controversially disallowed). The Reds then rounded the season off with a win over the Corkmen in the Dublin City Cup decider, goals from Ben Hannigan (described in an F.A.I. Cup final match report as the “stormy petrel” of Irish soccer) and Joey Wilson giving them a 2-1 win at Dalymount Park.

At the end of the 1960-61 season, Drumcondra had needed two replays to collect the Top Four Cup at the expense of Cork Celtic, and the first instalment of the 1963 final between the sides finished in a 2-2 draw. Finding themselves 2-0 down at half-time in the rematch, Drums fought back to force extra-time, before a brace of goals from Jimmy ‘Maxie’ McCann helped them to a 4-3 win. It was the Dublin club’s second trophy of the season, but it was their exploits in the new Inter Cities Fairs Cup (although the competition would eventually include sides who finished runners-up in the various European leagues, the League of Ireland was initially represented by the winners of the previous season’s shield) that were maybe more significant. A first victory, and first aggregate victory by a League of Ireland side in European competition were achieved by the Tolka Park outfit, at the expense of an ‘Odense XI’ from Denmark.

A couple of miles away in Dalymount Park, Bohemian F.C. had a somewhat peculiar season. They finished five points adrift at the foot of the table in spite of playing reasonably well, and conceding just 35 goals (two fewer than runners-up Waterford) in their 18 matches. The problem for the Gypsies was up front, where their forward players tended to waste an amount of goalscoring opportunities, week after week. Bohs often sought to remedy the problem by switching their centre-half and leader Willie Browne from defence to attack, and this sometimes paid dividends. Browne was a threat from set-pieces in any case, and he ended up as the club’s top scorer with five goals. The Longford native was voted the Soccer Writers’ ‘Personality of the Year’ for 1962-63 and would go on to win a number of international caps the following season.

The ‘Big Freeze’ affected English clubs and competitions to such an extent that some were forced to go without football for around two months. Manchester United eventually had the idea of travelling to Ireland to play a series of friendlies and exhibition matches, and they were joined by Coventry City for a match at Milltown on the 2nd of February. 20,000 were there to see Bobby Charlton score late to rescue a 2-2 draw for United, and a crowd of 6,000 braved heavy rain to see United beat Bolton Wanderers (who had not played a match since early December) 4-2 at Flower Lodge on February 13th. United rounded off their programme a week later with a 4-0 win over a Bohemians / Shamrock Rovers XI in front of 15,000 at Dalymount Park.

Paddy Crerand made his Manchester United debut and scored in the Flower Lodge match, following his recent move from Glasgow Celtic, and Crerand had been one of the tormentors-in-chief a few months earlier when the Scottish League inflicted a humiliating 11-0 defeat on the League of Ireland at Celtic Park. A match against the Irish League was also lost following a very poor performance, but with this fixture now very much an annual event, and friendly matches between northern and southern clubs also now a regular occurrence (Shelbourne and Portadown, for example, had played each other once a year for the last number of years), relations between the two leagues / associations had seemingly never been better. So much so that one meeting of League of Ireland officials this season raised / discussed the possibility of making a formal approach to their northern counterparts with respect to the creation of an all-Ireland league. In the meantime, however, the League of Ireland was to revert to a 12-team structure, and six applications would be received for the two new positions, including ones from Jacobs, Transport, Tycor Athletic (Waterford) and Home Farm. As it turned out, the 1963-64 season would see Sligo Rovers returning, and for the first time, a team from Drogheda.

League of Ireland 1962-63

PWDLFAPts
Dundalk18963392324
Waterford181035503723
Drumcondra181035332723
Cork Celtic18693332221
Shamrock Rovers18756362519
Cork Hibernians18747222518
Shelbourne18747293518
Limerick185310223013
St. Patrick’s Athletic18459234713
Bohemians18161119358

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round (first leg at Dalymount Park), Shelbourne 0-2 Sporting Lisbon, Sporting Lisbon 5-1 Shelbourne European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round (Rovers received a bye to this stage, first leg at Dalymount Park), Shamrock Rovers 0-4 Botev Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Botev Plovdiv 1-0 Shamrock Rovers Inter Cities Fairs Cup First Round, Drumcondra 4-1 Stævnet Odense (Denmark), Stævnet Odense 4-2 Drumcondra. Second Round, Bayern Munich 6-0 Drumcondra, Drumcondra 1-0 Bayern Munich

League top scorers : Mick Lynch Waterford, 12 Jackie Mooney Shamrock Rovers, 11 Jimmy Hasty Dundalk, 9

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Willie Browne, Bohemians

Representative matches : Scottish League 11-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 1-3 Irish League

1961-62 League of Ireland season

This season’s league race turned into a tussle between a free-scoring Cork Celtic side (who had four players in double figures) and a Shelbourne team that had shown an uncanny ability to grind out results. With both clubs finishing on 35 points (they drew 1-1 in front of a crowd of 10,000 at Turner’s Cross on the last day of the season), Shels and Cork Celtic contested a Dalymount Park play-off to decide the 1962 championship. A Ben Hannigan strike that came back off a post and went in off Cork defender Frankie McCarthy was enough to ensure a seventh league title for the Dubliners, and it meant that in spite of possessing a far superior goal average (ex-Limerick forward George Lynam had contributed ten goals, and centre-forward Donal Leahy was in the league’s top three scorers for the sixth year in a row), Celtic were condemned to a third runners-up finish in four seasons.

Shels would go on to defeat the Corkmen in the final of the Top Four Cup, and had been overwhelming favourites for the F.A.I. Cup final (which took place a few days before the league play-off) as well, only to be trounced 4-1 by Shamrock Rovers, with Tommy Hamilton and Paddy Ambrose each scoring twice. Shels had won each of the Dublin clubs’ three meetings during the season (and subsequently won a Top Four semi-final 4-1), including a 6-2 victory just nine days before the final, but an illness contracted by a number of their players from a vaccination ahead of a League of Ireland representative trip to Italy had disrupted the club’s preparations. The team that all other League of Ireland clubs loved to hate, therefore, now had some 14 Blue Riband victories to their name, and Tommy Hamilton’s great performance in light of yet another struggle with the Cunningham family (they had seen fit to drop him from the semi-final line-up, only to reconsider their decision after the fans had strenuously objected) saw him being awarded the Irish Soccer Writers’ “Personality of the Year” award.

Shelbourne’s 2-1 win over Rovers at Milltown on the 7th of January was also the first League of Ireland match to play host to a ‘Teilifís Éireann‘ camera crew, with the new television channel having been launched on New Year’s Day, 1962. Goals from Ben Hannigan and Eric Barber saw Shels defeat a Rovers team that featured future Hoops legend Frank O’Neill, who had returned to Ireland following a three-year spell at Arsenal. O’Neill had also guested with Rovers on their summer trip to the U.S.A., where they had become the first (and only ever) League of Ireland club to participate in the recently established ‘International Soccer League’ (they won one and drew two of their seven matches to finish seventh in their group of eight). The Rovers line-up this season also included brothers Eamon and Tommy Farrell, both half-backs, who were the father and uncle of future Hollywood film actor Colin.

Newcomer Hannigan, meanwhile, had arguably been the most consistent and effective forward in a Shelbourne team whose success had mostly been built around a great defence, brilliantly led by Freddie Strahan (Shels had allowed star goalkeeper Finbarr Flood leave to join Scottish club Greenock Morton during the season). Hannigan was one of a number of future League of Ireland stars who debuted during the 1961-62 season, with Johnny Fullam being another notable member of the Shamrock Rovers team this year. Inside-left Al Finucane and goalkeeper Kevin Fitzpatrick both made their debuts for Limerick, and although Finucane performed brilliantly, scoring eight league goals, he would go on to become more famous as a centre-half. Irish amateur international defender Willie Browne joined Bohemians from U.C.D., while Noel O’Mahony made his debut for Cork Hibernians in January, and would be a familiar face in League of Ireland football on Leeside for many years to come.

Cork Hibernians had been the club to lead the League of Ireland Shield table for most of the way, and so were in with a great chance of claiming their first national honour ahead of a last-day meeting with second-placed Drumcondra at Tolka Park. Goals from Jimmy Morrissey and Tommy Kinsella gave Drums a 2-1 win, however, and with it the club’s first shield success in over a decade. Since winning the last two editions of the “round robin” Dublin City Cup in the early 1950s, Drums had appeared in eight of the tournament’s 10 finals since, and they continued this pattern in 1961, with a rematch of the previous year’s decider against Cork Celtic. The issue took a little bit of time to resolve, though, with the clubs’ first meeting on 1st September ending in a 2-2 draw, and a replay in early November also finishing level at three goals apiece (ex-Cork United and Belfast Celtic star Liam O’Neill took over as Celtic coach ahead of this game, and the club lost their first two league matches before turning their form around). Drumcondra decided to fly to Cork for the second replay a few weeks later, but goals from Austin Noonan and Donie O’Leary gave Celtic a 2-0 win and their first Dublin City Cup, in what was the first match of the season to be played at Turner’s Cross (it was also their first “win” in that season’s competition, having reached the final by virtue of two “corners” victories in the earlier rounds). Cork Celtic had been sharing the Mardyke with Cork Hibernians during the early months, but an announcement by University College Cork that the ground wouldn’t be available for League of Ireland football beyond the current season prompted them to refocus their attention on trying to purchase Turner’s Cross from the F.A.I.

Drumcondra had been caught up in some controversy at the very beginning of the season, when they instigated a misuse of the substitute rule during their 3-0 L.F.A. President’s Cup win over St. Patrick’s Athletic at Dalymount Park. An injury to centre-half Sean Smyth saw him being replaced by Tony Nesbitt, but when Nesbitt got injured not long afterwards, the Tolka Park side readied Tommy Kinsella to come on in his stead. Despite the fact that only a goalkeeper substitution was available to Drums, the referee and an L.F.A. official allowed the second “outfield” change to be made. Dalymount Park itself, meanwhile, had yet another memorable moment later in the season, when the Phibsboro venue’s first ever floodlit football match took place. A ‘Bohemians XI’ (with guest players including the likes of Eric Barber and Tommy Hamilton) welcomed Arsenal for a midweek friendly in March, with the Londoners winning a high-scoring encounter by eight goals to three (the match had been played in poor weather conditions; although not as severe as the previous year, bad weather had been a feature of the 1961-62 season as a whole).

The previous season’s standout player, Dan McCaffrey, scored the first Drumcondra goal in their President’s Cup win, but injuries and a loss of form saw him struggle to hold down a place in the team as the season wore on. He eventually moved to Waterford and rediscovered some of his sharpness, but by the time the 1962-63 season rolled around McCaffrey would be on the move again, this time to Cork Hibernians. (Waterford had struggled towards the foot of the table and would have fared even worse if not for the brilliance of goalkeeper Tommy Taylor, whose displays grabbed many headlines this season.) Another of the 1960-61 season’s stars, Jimmy Hasty, also found himself on the sidelines for most of this campaign, but in spite of his injury problems, the Dundalk centre-forward still managed to register eight league goals.

The advent of a new European competition, the European Cup Winners’ Cup, saw St. Patrick’s Athletic acting as Ireland’s inaugural representatives, but unfortunately, with limited success. Meanwhile, a new cross-border tournament, the North-South Cup, had kicked off towards the end of the 1960-61 season, but due to fixture congestion for both the northern and southern-based clubs (St. Pat’s, Shels, Drums and Shamrock Rovers had each met Irish League opposition in a two-legged quarter-final), the unfinished tournament had spilled over into this year’s campaign. No League of Ireland club reached the first final (which took place between Linfield and Glentoran in early 1962), and a new edition of the competition commenced before the end of the current season, with Dundalk joining the other four southern clubs in a slightly revised 10-team version of the tournament. The competition again took place in fits and starts, however, and by the time Shelbourne lost the second decider to Glenavon in May of 1963, clubs’ appetite for the North-South Cup had been more or less exhausted.

League of Ireland 1961-62


PWDLFAPts

Shelbourne221552552335*

Cork Celtic221633712435

Shamrock Rovers221435513231

St. Patrick’s Athletic221138484625

Cork Hibernians22886373625**

Limerick221057413424**

Drumcondra22868454022

Dundalk22859423621

Bohemians226511404617

Waterford227312394917

Transport22231729767

Sligo Rovers22131831875

* Shelbourne beat Cork Celtic 1-0 in play-off for title

** Cork Hibernians awarded one point from Limerick

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round, FC Nuremberg (West Germany) 5-0 Drumcondra, Drumcondra 1-4 FC Nuremberg European Cup Winners’ Cup Preliminary Round (second leg at Tolka Park), Dunfermline Athletic 4-1 St. Patrick’s Athletic, St. Patrick’s Athletic 0-4 Dunfermline Athletic

League top scorers : Eddie Bailham Shamrock Rovers, 21 Donal Leahy Cork Celtic, 18 Eric Barber Shelbourne, 15 Austin Noonan Cork Celtic, 15

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Tommy Hamilton, Shamrock Rovers

Representative matches : League of Ireland 1-1 Scottish League, English League 5-2 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-3 Italian League, Irish League 3-1 League of Ireland, Italian League 6-0 League of Ireland

1960-61 League of Ireland season

Though not as open as the previous season, the 1960-61 League of Ireland title race (set against a wintry backdrop of cold, wind and rain) was still fairly competitive, and eventually turned into a three-horse one, with Waterford, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Drumcondra separated by just two points with five rounds of matches remaining. A 2-0 win for Drumcondra at Richmond Park pushed them one point clear of their Dublin rivals, and with both clubs subsequently defeating Waterford, only Pats and Drums could still be champions going into the final day’s action. Drumcondra held their nerve to win 2-1 against Cork Hibernians at the Mardyke (it was their seventh successive league victory), and ensure that Pats’ 1-0 win at outgoing champions Limerick was not enough to alter the situation.

The two Dublin clubs were also scheduled to meet in the F.A.I. Cup final, but having scored eight goals without reply in the sides’ two league encounters, Drumcondra were installed as overwhelming favourites in the build-up to the Blue Riband decider. Thanks to a goal from Johnny White, and another important cup final strike from Willie Peyton, however, the Inchicore club emerged victorious on a scoreline of two goals to one (and in keeping with the pattern of this season, a very strong wind had made an appearance for the final). Drumcondra did secure the Dublin City Cup and Top Four Cup, though, and their extended presence in these competitions afforded centre-forward Dan McCaffrey (a native of Omagh, Co. Tyrone) the opportunity to amass a total of 56 goals for the season, making him an obvious choice for the inaugural Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland “Personality of the Year” award. 29 of his goals came in the league, with five coming against second from bottom Bohemians, and McCaffrey also scored five against bottom club Sligo Rovers, who he had joined Drumcondra from at the beginning of the season.

Drums had won the league in spite of losing three of their first six matches, and had also seen goalkeeper Maurice Swan (who had proved himself a very good replacement for Alan Kelly over the previous two years) leave for Cardiff City before the beginning of the season. Swan had been replaced by a 20-year old Mick Smyth, and alongside Dan McCaffrey and the veteran ‘Bunny’ Fullam, Smyth was one of the team’s standout performers. Two sons of the club’s owner, Sam Prole, also made contributions to the cause, with Robert Prole playing well as a half-back (he was also a club director) and Royden Prole acting as coach.

Drumcondra became the first League of Ireland champions to add the Top Four trophy, although the final against holders Cork Celtic turned into an epic, three-match tussle, with Drums eventually winning the third game 3-0 under lights at Tolka Park. The third match also saw the first ever use of a substitute in League of Ireland football, when Hendricks replaced Grumley for the Dublin club. Cork Celtic, for their part, had won their last two league matches 3-0 to snatch fourth place from Dundalk, and continue their record of having qualified for every Top Four competition.

Drums had also taken the Dublin City Cup at Cork Celtic’s expense, with goals from Dan McCaffrey and Tony Nesbitt giving them a 2-1 win at Tolka Park. Substitutes had also been allowed in this competition but didn’t end up being availed of, with (like the Top Four Cup) the possibility to replace one player up to the 44th minute, and a goalkeeper at any stage. One other rule change meant that corners could still decide any drawn match in the early rounds of the Dublin City Cup, but not now the final itself (however, no matches had finished level in this season’s competition). Cork Celtic could at least look back on victory in the League of Ireland Shield, having edged out Leeside rivals Cork Hibernians. The trophy was pinched with a 1-0 win at the Mardyke in the second last match of the competition, a solitary goal from Austin Noonan enough to secure one of four derby victories for Cork Celtic over the course of this season.

Ewan Fenton, a Scot who had played in the famous F.A. Cup final of 1953 alongside Stanley Matthews, took over as player-coach of Limerick at the beginning of the 1960-61 season, and with the Shannonsiders having a European Cup tie against Young Boys Berne to look forward to, the decision was taken to play the home game at Thomond Park. A shield match with Shamrock Rovers was used to acclimatise to the venue, but having lost that match by two goals to nil, they went on to concede five without reply against the Swiss outfit, with all five goals coming in the second half. Limerick fared a bit better in the second leg, and were again level at half-time (Donie Wallace had even put them ahead), but eventually lost 4-2 to the team who had won the last four Swiss championships.

Sligo Rovers experienced financial issues during the summer months, and they persisted all the way through the 1960-61 campaign, with the Connacht club eventually having to field a number of local amateur players due to not being able to pay the wages of some of their regular squad. Former Everton and Ireland star Peter Farrell had joined the club as player-coach, but they finished adrift at the bottom of the table, picking up just one win and conceding a whopping 97 goals (only Bray Unknowns in the 1935-36 season had conceded more). Second-from-bottom Bohemians (who played in white jerseys this season) had improved slightly on their 1959-60 form, which had seen them finish without a win in league, shield or F.A.I. Cup.

Though Dundalk had faded out of contention for honours during the second half of the season, the addition of a one-armed centre-forward named Jimmy Hasty to their squad had been a great success. The Belfast native joined the Lilywhites from Newry Town in November, and he set about his business straight away, scoring ten goals in his first seven games and eventually finishing with 17 goals from 20 league appearances. Hasty quickly became the focal point for Dundalk’s play, with his passing and heading ability, along with great strength, balance and footwork meaning that he was more than capable of spearheading their attack. Although Transport F.C. had been well-served by a one-armed winger, Paddy Cody, during the 1950s, Cody had not been as prolific or as dynamic as Hasty, and the Dundalk forward quickly became a major attraction at League of Ireland grounds. After scoring on his league debut in a 2-2 draw against Cork Celtic at Oriel Park, he later scored both in a 2-1 win at Turner’s Cross, a feat that saw him receive applause from the home fans.

League of Ireland 1960-61

PWDLFAPts
Drumcondra221615592133
St. Patrick’s Athletic221444432832
Waterford221255453329
Cork Celtic221147523126
Dundalk221228433726
Shamrock Rovers22976402925
Limerick221048352724
Shelbourne227510434119
Cork Hibernians22589304218
Transport226214273914
Bohemians224414255212
Sligo Rovers22141735976

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round, (first leg at Thomond Park) Limerick 0-5 Young Boys Berne (Switzerland), Young Boys Berne 4-2 Limerick

League top scorers : Dan McCaffrey Drumcondra, 29 Donal Leahy Cork Celtic, 21 Jimmy Hasty Dundalk, 17

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Dan McCaffrey, Drumcondra

Representative matches : League of Ireland 0-4 English League, Scottish League 5-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-3 Irish League, Irish League 1-1 League of Ireland

1959-60 League of Ireland season

After just a few weeks of this season’s league programme, it looked as if it had the potential to be one of the most open championship races ever, with any one of nine different teams looking as if they could be potential champions. When Limerick ascended to the top of the table for the first time at the halfway point (earning an £11 bonus for many of their players, the equivalent of about three weeks’ wages), they had been the eighth different club to hold leadership or joint-leadership of the table, and though no-one could have known it at the time, a 1-0 win for the Shannonsiders at Dundalk the previous weekend (Gerry O’Brien was the goalscorer) ended up being a very significant result come the end of the season. Limerick won their first League of Ireland championship after taking 22 points from a possible 22 at the Market’s Field, beating the bottom three sides away from home, and losing all but one of their away games against the rest of the “top nine”.

Although Austin Noonan and Donal Leahy (often swapping positions at centre-forward and inside-forward) hit 47 league goals between them to elevate Cork Celtic (who had changed their name from Evergreen United, and adopted a new colour scheme of black and gold) into the runners-up position for the second year in a row, it was Shelbourne who had looked like Limerick’s most dangerous title rivals this season. With a side containing 10 players who were 23 or under (some had been part of Shels’ F.A.I. Youth Cup win the previous year), and five current or future Irish internationals, it was a very memorable season for Shelbourne overall, with Gerry Doyle’s young guns (Doyle advocated a policy of “if they’re good enough, they’re old enough”) defeating Cork Hibernians 2-0 in the F.A.I. Cup final to record what was only their second Blue Riband success. Eric Barber scored a goal in every round, and Tony Dunne, later to become a European Cup winner, an Irish international captain, and one of the world’s finest full-backs, left Tolka Park for Manchester United the day after the game. One other notable member of the Shels team was goalkeeper Finbarr Flood, who had broken three fingers in the semi-final but still ended up playing in the final with a heavily strapped hand. Flood later became managing director of Guinness and chairman of the Labour Court, before rejoining the Reds as club chairman in the early 2000s.

This season was the first to feature St. Patrick’s Athletic playing League of Ireland football (albeit just a handful of games) at their spiritual home of Richmond Park, and the Inchicore club marked the occasion by winning their first League of Ireland Shield. They won their first eight matches to build a virtually unassailable lead, and their record was only finally blemished by a defeat at Shelbourne (Eric Barber scored four in a 5-1 win) and a home draw against runners-up Limerick. St. Pats’ Johnny McGeehan topped the shield’s goalscoring chart alongside Barber, but one other player managed to equal their tally of nine goals in this year’s competition. Drumcondra hammered Sligo Rovers 9-0 at the Showgrounds in round three, and seven of those goals came from Billy Mackay, a recent signing from Leinster Senior League side Bray Wanderers. Scottish-born Mackay was the latest in a line of players that had gone from Bray to Drumcondra during recent seasons, but in spite of his promising shield form (he had also scored in a 2-0 win over Shamrock Rovers, Drums’ first Tolka Park win over the Hoops since 1952), he only scored two goals for Drums in the league before departing the League of Ireland scene.

Paddy Coad had taken over as player-manager of Shamrock Rovers midway through the 1949-50 season, and with the team that he assembled almost coming to define League of Ireland football during the 1950s, there was a sense of perfect symmetry when Coad decided to step away from the Glenmalure Park club midway through the 1959-60 campaign. It was a very mixed, and a very transitional season for the Hoops, as they won “only” the L.F.A. President’s Cup and Dublin City Cup, the latter trophy again being secured after defeating Drumcondra on corners, in the first final to be played away from Dalymount Park (the Tolka Park game was Drums’ fourth loss in the final in as many years). Rovers went through the first nine rounds of the League of Ireland Shield without winning a game (they did win their last two but there was now a view that other teams had figured out how to counteract their playing style), had a slow start to the league that saw them fall too far back to be able to mount a realistic challenge (they were the only one of this season’s “top nine” who never held or shared the lead), and suffered a chastening 3-0 F.A.I. Cup defeat at the hands of eventual winners Shelbourne.

Coad’s final Shamrock Rovers season did have one suitable high point, however, with the Hoops’ narrow 4-3 aggregate defeat by French champions OGC Nice in the European Cup being an extremely encouraging result for all League of Ireland sides. The manner of their performance was also very encouraging, with Rovers said to have played a “continental” style of football in the first leg, where goals from Tommy Hamilton and Liam Tuohy (who would join Newcastle United for £9,000 at the end of the season) had caused significant consternation for the home team and their supporters. Liam Hennessy had to sit out part of the away game after suffering a bout of sunstroke (the temperature reached 98° F), but he recovered to put in an excellent performance, and then scored a spectacular 40-yard goal against French international goalkeeper Georges Lamia in the second leg at Dalymount Park. Nice would go on to defeat Real Madrid 3-2 in the first leg of their quarter-final tie, before being eliminated by the eventual European Champions in the return leg in Spain.

39-year old Coad headed for his hometown, and took over as player-manager of a Waterford team that included several other great names from the club’s history, including his much younger brother Seamus (in his breakthrough season), the Fitzgerald brothers Jack and Denny, and also Alfie Hale. Hale’s star continued to rise following his return from the injury that had kept him out of the previous season’s cup final, as he hit a hat-trick in his inter-league debut against the Hessen League (the 5-2 win was the League of Ireland’s first against the German side), and scored twice in a 6-3 Olympic qualifier win against the Netherlands. It was the F.A.I.’s first Olympic football qualifying campaign, and with only amateur players allowed, the teams that took to the field for the four matches against Great Britain and the Dutch were almost entirely composed of League of Ireland players (Willie Browne of U.C.D. was the notable exception). Two somewhat unlucky defeats against Great Britain ultimately proved costly, but Hale’s performance against the Dutch helped him secure a move to Aston Villa a couple of months later, with a fee of £4,500 being agreed for the 20-year old.

The 1959-60 season was also one that had captured the imagination on Leeside. With both clubs in contention for honours, and a dispute having earlier arisen over the transfer of winger Paul O’Donovan from Cork Hibernians to Cork Celtic (Hibs had themselves recruited ex-Glasgow Celtic and Northern Ireland star Charlie Tully), a crowd of 30,000 attended the Mardyke in mid-January to see Celtic win a local derby 2-1, and take over from Hibs (on goal average) at the top of the League of Ireland table. It was initially believed that O’Donovan had not been properly registered by Cork Celtic, leading to them being docked two League of Ireland points and fined a sum of 10 guineas, but a subsequent appeal to the F.A.I. found that the Turner’s Cross club had not acted improperly. The two restored points helped them to finish second (instead of sixth), and they handed Limerick a rare Market’s Field defeat in the semi-finals of the Top Four Cup, before goals from Donal O’Leary and Frank McCarthy gave them a 2-0 win over Shelbourne in the final.

A significant off-the-field development this season was the foundation of the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland (P.F.A.I.) in February of 1960. It followed a visit to Dublin by Jimmy Hill, the secretary of the British P.F.A., who had been invited over to offer advice in relation to the grievances of some Irish players. The organisation had three key objectives, namely the improvement of conditions for players, the advancement of the game, and the improvement of player insurance and benefit schemes. Representing the interests of both professionals and semi-professionals, the P.F.A.I. was registered as an official Irish trade union in September 1960.

League of Ireland 1959-60

PWDLFAPts
Limerick221507462630
Cork Celtic221246664428
Shelbourne221165483328
Shamrock Rovers221237543127
Dundalk221237503227
Cork Hibernians221237573727
St. Patrick’s Athletic221219464425
Waterford221048404324
Drumcondra2210210453522
Sligo Rovers225314446713
Transport22321718668
Bohemians22051715715

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round (second leg at Dalymount Park), OGC Nice 3-2 Shamrock Rovers, Shamrock Rovers 1-1 OGC Nice

League top scorers : Austin Noonan Cork Celtic, 27 Tommy Collins Cork Hibernians, 21 Donal Leahy Cork Celtic, 20

Representative matches : League of Ireland 1-4 Scottish League, English League 2-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 5-2 Hessen League, League of Ireland 2-1 Irish League

1958-59 League of Ireland season

An eighth consecutive Dublin league championship success arrived in 1959, with Shamrock Rovers’ ninth League of Ireland title being secured with five points to spare over Evergreen United (who claimed the runners-up position on goal average) and Alec Stevenson’s Waterford. Rovers managed to play some good football in spite of some very muddy and sometimes frozen pitches, and while their league rivals definitely caused them a lot of headaches, none of the rest of the top four were able to find any real consistency. Waterford were possibly the most guilty of this, especially after coming out the right side of a 6-5 thriller at Kilcohan Park in early March that seemed to have thrown the race wide open, but the Blues lost two of their next three league games to allow Rovers to pull away.

Of the Suirsiders’ 58 league goals, some 56 were scored by members of two famous Waterford footballing families, the Hales and the Fitzgeralds (Peter Fitzgerald would depart for Sparta of Rotterdam during the summer, later to play for Leeds United and Ireland). Indeed, the loss of goalscoring prodigy Alfie Hale through injury in an F.A.I. Cup final dress rehearsal against St. Patrick’s Athletic helped the Blues to assume the mantle of this season’s nearly men, as goals from Johnny McGeehan (a recent signing from Transport) and Willie Peyton in a cup final replay (each side had an own goal in the first match) between the sides saw the Inchicore club record their first senior F.A.I. Cup success. Waterford did at least collect a fourth League of Ireland Shield a point ahead of Shamrock Rovers (following a poor start, they won their last eight games and amassed a total of 40 goals), to ensure that they now accounted for four of the seven non-Dublin victories in that competition. Former Aston Villa and Ireland star Con Martin had pulled many of the strings for the Blues this season, and the shield win gave him just his second medal in a career that had begun at Drumcondra in the early 1940s.

1958-59 was probably the most eventful and most impressive season to date for Limerick F.C. At the beginning of the season, a 4-3 semi-final victory over Shamrock Rovers had sent them into their first Dublin City Cup final, and they proceeded to beat Drumcondra (who had recently sold their Irish international goalkeeper Alan Kelly to Preston North End) by the same scoreline to join Sligo Rovers, Cork United and Dundalk on the list of non-Dublin winners of that trophy. Limerick registered a 4-3 win at Kilcohan Park to hand shield-winners Waterford one of just two defeats (Limerick won their last five games to finish third), so it looked like something positive was brewing for the club from the mid-west. They continued to show good form in the league, and in addition to enjoying two thrilling 3-2 wins over Waterford (the Kilcohan Park meeting was a superb match that had also seen a special train being laid on for Dublin-based supporters), they also held Shamrock Rovers to two 1-1 draws, each of which they were unfortunate not to have won. They won the Munster Senior Cup, and in spite of a gruelling four-match saga against Drumcondra, made it to the semi-finals of the F.A.I. Cup, where Waterford gained a measure of revenge thanks to a goal by Tommy Coady. Limerick also pipped Drumcondra to a place in the Top Four Cup, but after another 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers in the semi-final, were defeated 18-6 on corners.

Evergreen United were Rovers’ opponents in the Top Four final, and a Donal Leahy goal gave them a 1-0 win in front of a crowd of 15,000 at Dalymount Park. The turnout was very satisfactory for a competition that many had felt would not generate much interest, but the ‘Independent Cup’ had already succeeded in adding bite to what might otherwise have been meaningless end-of-season league games (clubs were also mindful of the extra revenue that would accrue). Leahy also scored both in the 2-0 semi-final win over Waterford (he had almost single-handedly dragged his team into contention for honours this season), and Rovers’ loss in the final meant that although they had regained the league title, they had surrendered possession of all five of the trophies that they had won in 1957-58.

A twelfth place league showing for Bohemians this year meant that the once-mighty Phibsboro club had achieved just one top-half league finish (fifth in 1951) since 1941. This could largely be attributed to the amateur status (in line with the principles enacted at the club’s foundation) that the club had so doggedly adhered to as the decades had passed, refusing to sign professional players, or even those that they felt harboured intentions of becoming full-time footballers. Bohemians recorded a surprise league double over old rivals Shelbourne this season, however, and shocked champions-elect Shamrock Rovers by knocking them out of the F.A.I. Cup, so it seemed that, in spite of their difficulties, the Gypsies might still have the ability to add some value to the league.

In a first for the League of Ireland (the practice was common for Ireland’s rugby and hockey teams at the time), a “trial” game was held in late January between a ‘Dublin XI’ and a ‘Provincial XI’ to aid with the task of selecting a team to play against the English League at Dalymount Park on St. Patrick’s Day. A large Tolka Park crowd was present to see a thrilling match finish 4-4, and Shelbourne centre-forward Christy Doyle (a cousin of St Patrick’s Athletic’s Dunne brothers) netted all four for the metropolitans. Doyle not only played against the English League (a very exciting scoreless draw that the home team were unlucky not to win), but also won a full international cap in a European Nations Cup game against Czechoslovakia a few weeks later. The 21-year old had also appeared in two ‘B’ internationals earlier in the season, scoring in both, including the only goal in a 1-0 win over South Africa’s ‘A’ team.

Although the 1950s had seen League of Ireland aggregate attendances rise to unprecedented levels, and crowds of up to 1,000 people often gathering outside newspaper offices on Sunday evenings to await the posting of the afternoon’s results, there was a noticeable dip during the 1958-59 season, with many clubs towards the middle and lower reaches of the league suddenly finding themselves in financial difficulty. While bad weather might have been a possible factor, heavy defeats for both Shamrock Rovers and Drumcondra in the European Cup, and reduced representation for League of Ireland players in the Irish national team did seem to have robbed the league of some of its gravitas. The 1950s had been a very difficult decade for Ireland that saw rising unemployment and emigration, but the league had been something of a success story. With a new decade on the horizon, it seemed that there might be some challenging times ahead.

League of Ireland 1958-59

PWDLFAPts
Shamrock Rovers221543582934
Evergreen United221336492729
Waterford221417583629
Limerick221156483127
Drumcondra221147302626
Shelbourne22787353322
Transport228311303719
St. Patrick’s Athletic229013455918
Cork Hibernians225512294315
Sligo Rovers226313345115
Dundalk226313345315
Bohemians226313255015

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round (second leg at Dalymount Park), Atlético Madrid 8-0 Drumcondra, Drumcondra 1-5 Atlético Madrid

League top scorers : Donal Leahy Evergreen United, 22 Alfie Hale Waterford, 18 Peter Fitzgerald Waterford, 17

Representative matches : Scottish League 1-0 League of Ireland, Irish League 2-3 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-0 English League

1957-58 League of Ireland season

Despite losing both league encounters between the sides, Drumcondra garnered a third league championship in 1958, following another season-long battle with Shamrock Rovers. One of the most significant games of the year (and indeed the decade) was the meeting of the sides at Tolka Park in January 1958. Billed as the League of Ireland’s first all-ticket game, by kick-off time it was apparent that many fans had gained unauthorised entry, and with the Tolka stands creaking and swaying, many supporters were forced to decamp to the touchlines. Then, with Rovers leading 2-1 midway through the second half, Hoops’ forward Tommy Hamilton (having been taken down by Drums’ goalkeeper Alan Kelly, who was arguably the league’s best player this season) careered into a number of spectators behind the goal-line. As he struggled to free himself, and chaos suddenly threatening to break out, the match was abandoned. Amazingly, the result stood, but was not enough to prevent Drums from eventually becoming champions with two points to spare.

Two 1-0 defeats to Dundalk had not helped Rovers’ championship aspirations, but the Milltown side had the chance to gain some revenge when the two clubs locked horns in the final of the F.A.I. Cup. With Tommy Hamilton (like last season) having been controversially dropped from the Rovers team at the behest of the Cunningham family, a header from former Hoop Hughie Gannon (who broke his cheekbone in the process) was enough to ensure a fourth Blue Riband success for the Lilywhites. The Louth side kept clean sheets in all five of their cup games, and bizarrely, before the first round of this season’s competition, had not won an F.A.I. Cup match since their victory in the decider of 1952.

While it was only Rovers’ fifth defeat in 18 F.A.I. Cup final appearances, they could take some solace from a fourth successive League of Ireland Shield (three points clear of St. Patrick’s Athletic and Waterford), and an incredible four cup final victories over Drumcondra. In addition to triumphing in the Leinster Senior Cup and L.F.A. President’s Cup deciders (both replays – the drawn games were Drumcondra’s only joy against the Hoops in nine meetings this season), Rovers defeated Drums in the Dublin City Cup final (in front of a crowd of 14,000) for the fourth time in six years, and a 2-1 victory in the Top Four decider meant that the Hoops now led the roll of honour in all five of the main domestic competitions (league, F.A.I. Cup, shield, Dublin City Cup and the Top Four Cup).

It was perhaps fitting, therefore, that Rovers had earlier had the honour of being the first League of Ireland side to participate in the European Cup. Over 45,000 packed Dalymount Park to see them take on the mighty Manchester United, and although humbled 6-0 by a far fitter team in that first leg (it was just 1-0 at half-time, and three goals came in the last 10 minutes), they achieved a more respectable 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford. Tragically, six months later, five of the players who had lined out against Rovers (including Dubliner Liam Whelan, scorer of two goals in the Dalymount game) would perish in the Munich air disaster.

With the League of Ireland’s involvement with the Irish national side being at the mercy of a seemingly extremely volatile and capricious five-man selection committee, the decision to create a Republic of Ireland ‘B’ team was viewed as a very welcome development this season. It was envisaged it would provide another avenue for home-based players to attain some international experience, and indeed three home-leaguers (all Shamrock Rovers players) took to the field for the team’s debut outing against Romania ‘B’ in October of 1957. Although three more matches (with each of them featuring entirely home-based XI’s) would be arranged for the ‘B’ team during the coming seasons, the initiative would surprisingly be shelved indefinitely in 1960.

While the 1950s had seen the League of Ireland’s profile rise to previously unscaled heights, the increase in attendances had seen a corresponding increase in crowd disturbances, with the Tolka Park match of early 1958 being just the latest (though perhaps the most notable) of several such incidents during the decade. Cork Athletic’s double-winning season of 1950-51 had seen a league game against Shelbourne and a cup game against Limerick produce unsavoury scenes, while the 1955-56 season saw a section of Shamrock Rovers fans respond with distaste to their team’s damaging late-season defeat by Waterford at Kilcohan Park. On the very first day of the 1957-58 season, a Dublin City Cup game between Rovers and St. Pat’s almost had to be abandoned due to crowd encroachment, while Cork Hibernians’ first ever home League of Ireland match was also marred by crowd trouble, as a group of supporters surrounded the pavilion after the game against Waterford at the Mardyke and chanted “we want the referee”. In the wake of the Tolka Park match, serious questions were raised regarding safety at League of Ireland games (only six gardaí had been on duty at the ground), leading to a more vigilant attitude to fixtures on the part of league authorities.

League of Ireland 1957-58

PWDLFAPts
Drumcondra221534512333
Shamrock Rovers221516552631
Evergreen United221336533029
St. Patrick’s Athletic221066453226
Shelbourne221138412925
Waterford221039433723
Limerick227510314019
Dundalk227312384617
Bohemians226412365216
Transport226412305016
Sligo Rovers225512326115
Cork Hibernians226214376614

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round, (first leg at Dalymount Park) Shamrock Rovers 0-6 Manchester United, Manchester United 3-2 Shamrock Rovers

League top scorers : Donie Leahy Evergreen United, 16 Johnny McGeehan Transport, 15 Austin Noonan Evergreen United, 15

Representative matches : League of Ireland 1-5 Scottish League, English League 3-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-2 Irish League, Irish League 3-1 League of Ireland

1956-57 League of Ireland season

Despite winning the championship in each of their two seasons at the venue, St. Patrick’s Athletic vacated the Chapelizod Stadium during the summer of 1956, meaning that their 4-2 defeat by Shamrock Rovers (regarded as one of the best matches of the era) ended up being the last League of Ireland game to be played at the ground. St. Pat’s would move to Dalymount Park for the new season, but in spite of adding a couple of promising young players to their squad (these players went by the names of Jimmy Dunne and Ronnie Whelan), the 1956-57 season would be something of a transitional one for them. This meant that their growing rivalry with Paddy Coad’s Shamrock Rovers was to be put on ice for now, but a club from the northside of Dublin were ready to step back into the breach.

The 1956-57 season ended up being a year-long struggle for supremacy between two clubs, taking in six different competitions. Shamrock Rovers and Drumcondra (both registering unbeaten home records in all competitions) first met in the final of the Dublin City Cup, with Rovers being awarded the trophy on corners after a 1-1 draw between the sides. Although Rovers were comfortable winners of the subsequent League of Ireland Shield (winning 10 of their 11 matches), Drumcondra were still their closest challengers, finishing four points behind the Glenmalure Park outfit. A 2-0 win for the Hoops in the final of the Leinster Senior Cup condemned Drums to a third set of runners-up medals, and then, despite dropping four of their last six points (their only league loss of the season came against Cork Athletic on the last day), Shamrock Rovers secured an eighth league championship in 1957, five points ahead of their bitter Dublin rivals. Thus, having taken three national trophies at Drumcondra’s expense, only Drums, in the F.A.I. Cup final, now stood between them and an unprecedented “quadruple”.

It was the fourth time in 12 years that the teams had met in the F.A.I. decider, and goals from Bunny Fullam and Willie Coleman were enough to level the amount of victories in these matches at two all, and shatter Rovers’ quadruple dreams in the process. Drums followed up that victory with a 3-0 win over Rovers in the semi-final of the Top Four Cup, but Evergreen United (who this season stumbled upon the lethal strike partnership of Austin Noonan and Donal Leahy, which would yield some 267 league goals over the next 11 seasons) upset the script somewhat by beating the Dubliners 2-1 to claim their first national honour.

Despite missing out on that third successive F.A.I. Cup, Paddy Coad’s charges were of course by now easily the League of Ireland’s main attraction, with crowds of up to 20,000 going to see them at every venue in the country. Backed by the cash-rich Cunninghams (legend has it that they were sometimes known to drop fistfuls of coins from their horse-drawn carriage as they made their way to Rovers matches), the club’s travel arrangements were the envy of other sides, with fancy cars, top hotels, and steak dinners being par for the course. Players like Gerry Mackey, Ronnie Nolan and Paddy Ambrose had also several international caps (eight Rovers players took to the field for an inter-league game with the Irish League in March 1957) to their names, and turning up at away grounds in a club blazer and tie, the Colts were some of Ireland’s first real football celebrities.

With a one-armed winger called Paddy Cody as their top scorer, and future Ireland international Ray Brady also a part of the side, Transport finished in fifth place this season to record what would ultimately prove to be their best ever League of Ireland performance. The Busmen’s league campaign began with high drama at Harold’s Cross, when they conceded four first-half goals to Shelbourne before scoring five of their own in the second half to register an incredible 5-4 win. They went on to record a positive goal difference this season for the first and only time, but along with league runners-up Drumcondra, were left to rue an excessive amount of draws in a season that (like the 1949-50 edition) had been impacted by a lot of bad weather and muddy pitches.

Not too many could have predicted that Cork Athletic’s last day victory over Shamrock Rovers would prove to be their last-ever League of Ireland fixture. Long-standing financial problems (although this was not explicitly stated at the time of the expulsion), not aided by their fondness for full-time footballers, saw their membership being cancelled in July of 1957, their place being taken by a new club from the southern capital, Cork Hibernians. Hibernians, like several previous Cork teams, were initially based at the Mardyke, but intended to move into a new stadium in the Ballintemple area of the city in the coming years. The ground, Flower Lodge, had already had an unofficial opening for an F.A.I. Cup first round tie between A.O.H. (an amateur Cork club whose members had helped in the creation of Cork Hibernians) and Sligo Rovers in February of 1957. The match programme for that day spoke of what was hoped would become “Munster’s Finest Sports Stadium”, with a capacity of up to 60,000 people ultimately being envisaged.

September 1956 saw goals from Shay Gibbons, Liam Tuohy and Dermot Curtis (who would soon leave Shelbourne for Bristol City for a fee of £8,000) help the League of Ireland representative side finally avoid defeat against the English League. With the Irish selection having lost the sides’ 10 previous meetings, a 3-3 draw in front of a crowd of 32,000 at Dalymount Park was therefore extremely welcome. The League of Ireland’s finest ever hour on the international stage, meanwhile, occurred in Dalymount two months later, with seven home-based players helping Ireland to a 3-0 friendly victory over world champions West Germany. The other four members of the team had played in the League of Ireland previously, and Noel Cantwell, Joe Haverty, and Shamrock Rovers’ Jimmy ‘Maxie’ McCann scored the all-important goals.

League of Ireland 1956-57


PWDLFAPts

Shamrock Rovers221561682436

Drumcondra221192492831

Sligo Rovers221174422929

Evergreen United221156483127

Transport228104423626

Shelbourne221066473924*

Waterford22949444122

Cork Athletic22589324618

St. Patrick’s Athletic226511335517

Dundalk224810334016

Bohemians22251520569

Limerick22231721597

* Shelbourne deducted two points

League top scorers : Tommy Hamilton Shamrock Rovers, 15 Donie Leahy Evergreen United, 15 Austin Noonan Evergreen United, 13

Representative matches : League of Ireland 3-3 Football League, Scottish League 3-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-2 Irish League, Irish League 1-2 League of Ireland

1955-56 League of Ireland season

Having defeated Waterford 2-1 to land a second Dublin City Cup in three seasons, a third league success for St. Patrick’s Athletic followed in 1956, with Shay Gibbons’ 21 league goals being complemented by 17 from Paddy ‘Ginger’ O’Rourke. St. Pat’s rode their luck at times this season, winning several games where their opponents had played as well if not better, and they also had third-placed Waterford to thank for doing a “double” over runners-up Shamrock Rovers, with both of these wins coming at very important points in the league race. Rovers had beaten Pats 4-2 in a thriller at Chapelizod in the closing stages to place control of the league title’s destiny in their own hands (and to deprive their rivals of a clean sweep of points from their home matches), but a 3-1 loss at Kilcohan Park in their next outing combined with a St. Pat’s win in Sligo meant that the league trophy would be retained by Alec Stevenson’s side.

Paddy Coad’s side (or “Coad’s Colts” as they had now come to be known by fans and the media, a moniker to rival that of the “Busby Babes” of Manchester United) met with Cork Athletic in the F.A.I. Cup final, a game that gave rise to what was perhaps the finest ever example of League of Ireland / F.A.I. Cup folklore. The Leesiders’ team featured one Jimmy Delaney, a Scottish international who had already pocketed F.A. Cup, Scottish Cup and I.F.A. Cup medals in a glittering 20-year career, and with Athletic leading 2-0 (Delaney, who was in receipt of a salary similar to that of Raich Carter in ’53, netted the first) with just 12 minutes remaining, Cork Athletic Secretary Donie Forde left the ground to fetch champagne for the celebrations. Forde was unnerved by the sound of three loud cheers coming from the Dalymount stadium, however, and when he saw the ecstatic Rovers fans walking out as he returned, he knew that Coad’s side had done the unthinkable. Their 3-2 win meant a thirteenth cup success for the Hoops, and ensured that Delaney missed out on that historic quadruple of cup winner’s medals.

An unbeaten Rovers had secured an equally incredible eleventh League of Ireland Shield (Shelbourne, with seven, were the Hoops’ nearest challengers in that roll of honour) earlier in the campaign, following a 2-1 win at leaders Waterford on the last day, and also defeated the Suirsiders (who registered an unbeaten league record at Kilcohan Park) to capture the inaugural Top Four Cup, a new end-of-season competition for the league’s four highest-placed sides. Officially titled the ‘Independent Cup’ (after the Irish newspaper group), the tournament ran on a straightforward semi-final and final format, with a draw determining who would meet who. With the aim of reducing the amount of meaningless end-of-season games, it seemed to pay dividends straight away, with Sligo Rovers going on a six-game winning run (during which their prolific Scottish winger Johnny Armstrong scored nine goals) to move from 10th place to 4th with just one match to play. Evergreen United (who had been in the top four for most of the season) pipped them on goal average, however, and after Shamrock Rovers had beaten St. Pat’s 9-8 on corners in the competition’s very first match (following a thrilling 3-3 draw), a James ‘Maxie’ McCann goal eight minutes from the end ensured not just a win over Waterford in the final, but also that Rovers had scored in every match of the 1955-56 season.

In what was a fairly turbulent year for Shelbourne, a number of the club’s more established players had been released during the close season, and a slightly more youthful side was assembled under the tutelage of returning former player Eddie Gannon (who had spent some time in England’s top division with Sheffield Wednesday and also won 14 international caps). The club had been hoping to free up some funds in advance of moving into their new (but still quite incomplete) stadium in Irishtown, but mediocre league form and a lack of spectator facilities at the ground had a significant impact on their attendances. With the financial situation not looking too favourable, Shels took the difficult decision to vacate the ground after just one season. Signing off with an impressive 7-1 win over Limerick in their last Irishtown match, the Reds returned to being tenants at Tolka Park, and apart from a spell at Harold’s Cross in the ’80s, have played at the northside venue ever since.

League of Ireland 1955-56

PWDLFAPts
St. Patrick’s Athletic221624613434
Shamrock Rovers221516543031
Waterford221426663930
Evergreen United221048342824
Sligo Rovers221129475024
Shelbourne228410454220
Bohemians227510293619
Drumcondra228212415118
Cork Athletic227312384317
Dundalk226511375417
Limerick226511355417
Transport225314335913

League top scorers : Shay Gibbons St. Patrick’s Athletic, 21 Paddy Ambrose Shamrock Rovers, 20 Paddy ‘Ginger’ O’Rourke St. Patrick’s Athletic, 17

Representative matches : League of Ireland 2-4 Scottish League, English League 5-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 4-1 Hessen League, League of Ireland 1-0 Irish League, Irish League 6-0 League of Ireland

1954-55 League of Ireland season

Having played a number of games for the club the previous season, former Everton and Ireland inside-left Alec Stevenson took over as manager of St. Patrick’s Athletic during the summer of 1954 (he had recently been serving as Irish international coach), and former Shamrock Rovers defender Tommy Dunne (son of the late Jimmy, and a future Irish international) was a notable addition to a squad that had finished second from bottom at the end of the most recent league campaign. Several other young players were introduced, and a move to Chapelizod Greyhound Stadium seemed to be the final piece of the jigsaw, as the West Dublin club finished three points ahead of Waterford (who they defeated 4-1 in a crunch fixture during the closing stages) to collect their second League of Ireland championship.

Waterford were themselves five points clear of the previous season’s champions, Shamrock Rovers, who had failed to fully recover from a shaky start that had seen them lose three of their first five league matches. The Milltown club could look back on a tremendous season overall, however, having earlier picked up the Dublin City Cup (beating Drumcondra 2-0), the League of Ireland Shield, the Leinster Senior Cup and the L.F.A. President’s Cup. A semi-final win over Longford Town (the non-leaguers in the semi-finals for the second time) then set up another F.A.I. Cup final meeting against bitter rivals Drumcondra, with a Liam Tuohy goal (Tuohy scored in every round of the competition) giving Rovers their twelfth F.A.I. Cup success.

In spite of the offside trap becoming increasingly common, and an overall feeling in recent years that defences had very much been on top, there was a noticeable increase in goals scored during the 1954-55 league season, with the highest goals-per-game ratio since 1946 being recorded. A revitalised Shay Gibbons at St. Pat’s (a haul of 28 league goals was the highest-ever tally for the player who had topped the goalscoring charts in 1952 and 1953), and a productive partnership between Rory Dwyer and Dermot Curtis at Shelbourne were among the contributing factors, but it was Waterford’s centre-forward pairing this year that had really caught the Irish football public’s attention. Scottish striker Jimmy Gauld (who would later serve four years in prison for his part in a match-fixing scandal in the English league) bagged 30 goals to finish top of the season’s scoring charts, and he was ably assisted by local hero Jack Fitzgerald (one of six Fitzgerald brothers that would play for the Kilcohan Park club), who finished the season off by scoring the only goal of the game in his Irish international debut against Holland in May.

The inordinate amount of goals being scored led to some very eye-catching scorelines this season. It began on the opening day, with Shelbourne spoiling St. Patrick’s Athletic’s first league match at Chapelizod by turning a 4-1 half-time deficit into a remarkable 6-4 success. The 1953 champions then went on an excellent run that saw them take 17 points from their first 18, and this set up an eagerly-anticipated mid-January clash with Waterford that got switched to Dalymount Park (Shels had become tenants at Tolka Park this season). However, the crowd of almost 22,500 saw Waterford take the Reds apart by six goals to one, a result that triggered a dramatic mid-season collapse for Shels that saw them take just one point out of 16, before they recovered at the end of the season to win their last five league matches.

On the same afternoon that Shelbourne faced Waterford at Dalymount, St. Patrick’s Athletic were due to host a struggling Dundalk side at Chapelizod. Conditions weren’t ideal, as there had been sleet and snow showers the night before, and a frost had then set in that caused the ground to harden and create a very slippery playing surface. The match went ahead, but the harsh conditions, combined with the Dublin football public’s attention being focused on the other match, meant that a relatively small crowd would be in attendance. With the players slipping and sliding all over the pitch, the champions-elect recorded a slightly bizarre / bonkers 10-3 victory, the total of 13 goals scored being a record for a League of Ireland game.

League of Ireland 1954-55

PWDLFAPts
St. Patrick’s Athletic221723623136
Waterford221615704333
Shamrock Rovers221246633728
Shelbourne221327624128
Cork Athletic221057535125
Drumcondra22958383023
Bohemians229112515519
Limerick228113325017
Sligo Rovers226313343915
Transport225413225114
Evergreen United224513344613
Dundalk225314396613

League top scorers : Jimmy Gauld, Waterford, 30 Shay Gibbons St. Patrick’s Athletic, 28 Rory Dwyer Shelbourne, 19

Representative matches : League of Ireland 0-6 English League, Scottish League 5-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-1 Irish League, Hessen League 7-2 League of Ireland, Hessen League 5-0 League of Ireland